DPWH: 2 bridges to end stranding during storms

PROPOSED LINKS. One of the bridges will be the Luzon-Samar Bridge that will link Luzon to the Visayas, while the other will be the Leyte-Mindanao Bridge that will link the Visayas to Mindanao.
PROPOSED LINKS. One of the bridges will be the Luzon-Samar Bridge that will link Luzon to the Visayas, while the other will be the Leyte-Mindanao Bridge that will link the Visayas to Mindanao. SCREENGRAB SNAZZY MAPS / GRAPHICS ENRICO SANTISAS

IN A BID to end the perennial problem of stranding of passengers during bad weather, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has moved forward on projects to link Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao through bridges with the help of Japanese experts.

In a strategic collaboration between the Infrastructure Development Institute (IDI) Japan and the DPWH, a team of experts is gearing up to begin the early stage assessment of proposed long-span bridge projects that will connect the country’s three main island groups and also reduce port congestion during peak seasons.

The proposal focuses on the construction of the Luzon-Samar Bridge, which would link Luzon to the Visayas, and the Leyte-Mindanao Bridge, which would link the Visayas to Mindanao.

In a statement, the DPWH said this would cut travel time between the major islands and seamlessly connect the missing links of the country’s main trunk line, the Maharlika Highway, which currently spans over 3,500 kilometers from Luzon to Mindanao.

The Maharlika Highway, or the Pan-Philippine Highway, is a network of roads, expressways, bridges and ferry services connecting the islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao in the Philippines.

To coordinate the study team’s activities, IDI Japan consultants met with DPWH Senior Undersecretary Emil Sadain on Nov. 8, 2023, at the DPWH central office in Port Area, Manila. Also at the meeting were representatives from the DPWH’s regional offices 5 (Bicol), 8 (Eastern Visayas) and 13 (Caraga).

Sadain said the pre-feasibility study would encompass the Luzon-Samar-Leyte-Mindanao Linkage Project.

Storm proofing

Beyond enhancing connectivity, the project aims to provide “a permanent solution to the perennial problem of stranding during weather disturbances and port congestion during peak season,” Sadain said.

The Philippines is an archipelago of over 7,000 islands, making sea and air travel a common way to move from one part of the country to the next. But such travel is also vulnerable to weather disturbances, which often cause cancellations of boat and plane trips.

On average, the Philippines gets 20 tropical cyclones a year. It is prone to storms because it sits in the western Pacific Ocean from latitude five to 20 degrees north of the equator, about the same range as western Pacific typhoon formation.

The construction of bridges would enable safer and practically unimpeded land travel across the seas despite poor weather.

On behalf of DPWH Secretary Manuel Bonoan, Sadain thanked IDI Japan for its assistance, saying previous initiatives on the proposed project had not pushed through.


Masahiko Yasuda, the study team leader from Dia Nippon Engineering Consultants, said the engineering solutions being considered include the use of maximum single-span length, applied in the Messina Strait Bridge in Italy, and deep-water foundation, used successfully for the Rion-Antirion Bridge in Greece.

After the meeting, the study team was scheduled to make site visits to Bicol and Eastern Visayas, conducting bathymetric surveys in Matnog, Sorsogon, and Allen, Samar. Bathymetry refers to the measurement of the depth of water in oceans, rivers or lakes.

The DPWH did not specify where in Leyte or Caraga the Leyte-Mindanao Bridge would be built.

Business reaction

Business leaders welcomed the development.

Kelie Ko, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, underscored the crucial role of infrastructure in promoting the country’s economic growth, given the Philippines’ archipelagic nature.

“It allows for the transfer of goods, services and people, whether they be tourists or workers. This plan to further connect the Philippine islands from north to south will be a big boost to the economy, especially for Mindanao,” he said.

The country’s largest shipping group, Philippine Coastwise Shipping Association (PCSA) was also supportive of the project, saying it will “contribute to the nation’s wellbeing.”

For now, the group said, it is not alarmed by its possible negative impact on the shipping industry since this kind of project “takes several years to accomplish, thus the need to maintain the status quo in the domestic maritime industry.”

“We believe that for the Philippine archipelago with more than 7,000 islands, there will always be a market for the shipping industry even with the bridges connecting major islands,” it said.

PCSA operates more than 500 ships, ferrying thousands of passengers daily and transporting cargoes nationwide. Its fleet covers short, medium and long-haul routes and is the main transporter of goods in the logistics chain and the primary operator of roll-on/roll-off ships in the Strong Republic Nautical Highway.

Its membership includes shipyard operators, trucking and logistics companies, maritime institutions and other maritime-related entities.

Budget support

Retail entrepreneur Robert Go said this ambitious plan would be advantageous for traders like him, as it promises increased efficiency in travel and goods delivery.

“The economic benefits are clear and positive,” Go said, adding that what concerns him is the country’s fiscal condition to realize this project. “These are all possible with the right amount of budget.”

Go said similar infrastructure development had been done years ago by Japan linking Hokkaido to Kyushu through an underground tunnel, Key West Florida and the massive bridges all over China, which have made travel and logistics more convenient and efficient.

Following the Nov. 8 IDI Japan consultants’ meeting with DPWH officials in Manila, subsequent technical meetings and workshops were planned at the Japan International Cooperation Agency-Philippines Office, DPWH Office, and the Japanese Embassy in Manila.

Jica is an implementing agency of Japanese official development assistance for the purpose of supporting socioeconomic development, recovery or economic stability of developing regions.


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